Highway to Happiness: Final Wedding Budget

Wedding Recaps

We started out with a working budget of $5,800. That number was based on what we expected to save each month for the 2+ years we were actively planning the wedding. I’d set up a spreadsheet to track both the savings as well as any spending and it worked fairly well for 90% of our engagement. I’m sure you can empathize with the mad dash that happens just before the wedding and the habit of throwing cash (and the occasional bit of plastic) at anything that pops up.

Long story short, this post is the first time I’m looking at what out final expenses totaled!

Images via Pink Shutterbug Photography

Images via Pink Shutterbug Photography

Attire $635

My dresses and accessories came to $480 thanks to needing no alterations and shopping smart. Choosing both dresses were simple compared to picking a bracelet–I think I bought a total of five, but only included the once I actually wore in the total.

Roadie’s suit rental and tie came to $155


Rings $276

Roadie’s tungsten carbide ring ($53) came from Amazon because, like many a Bee before me, we saw no reason to spend six times as much to buy it in a jewelry store. My wedding band ($223) didn’t come from the wedding section of Marks & Morgan, but the fashion jewelry cases; it also happens to be sterling silver, which is much more my daily wear speed.


Decorations $609

We diy-ed the vast majority of the decor for our wedding, so this total includes the linens I purchased for the reception ($98–about half of what the rentals would have cost), as well as the craft supplies we combined with the stuff we already had around the house. Hoarding craft supplies has never been so helpful and I wouldn’t have the first clue about how much of “in stock” value all of that came to.

Beverages $612

We brought in our own wines and signature cocktail fixings. It was easier to buy full cases so that total could really be cut in half since we have about half of it left for at-home consumption. The beer service was comped by the venue in light of the mishaps on the day.


Venue & Catering $3297

Venue rental for the ceremony and reception space ran $1545
AV services (iPod dock, outdoor speakers, etc.) ran $289

Cocktail Hour Food & Beverage for 27 $330
Reception Food & Beverage for 25 $625

Lodging $508

Desserts $154

The four dozen cupcakes from Lucy & Leo’s came to $102, the rest is the ingredients for the desserts I made.

Favors $104

Another point for the edible favors–not a single one of our chocolate bundles were left behind!

Photographer $384

This included and engagement session as well as 8 hours of coverage and 2 shooters on the day (including a $25 mileage fee). It resulted in 1400 digital images (including both sessions) with reprint rights.

The Legal Bits $170

Our marriage license was $93.50 and the event insurance was $76.50. The insurance was a condition of our original contract but the new DoC didn’t know anything about it. Still, an ounce of prevention and all that, right?

Rehearsal Dinner $230

Dinner for 12 at a Mexican restaurant was one of our better food-related decisions (right after our cupcakes). Even with a very generous tip it was still less than we’d expected!


Stationery $150

Postage was probably the largest purchase when it came to our paper goods at $80. We spent $20 on our Save the Date cards, and the rest went to envelopes. Everything else I already owned and since I’d replaced my inkjet printer earlier in the year (with an Epson WorkForce 7510) I was able to do everything else purely diy.

Miscellaneous $279

Ceremony glassware for unity ceremony $78
Pre-Wedding Pampering $90
iTunes downloads for ceremony/reception music $44
Emergency Kit supplies $67

Grand Total $6900

So, about $1100 over the planned budget which doesn’t seem so bad (we’re just going to ignore the fact that it’s a 19% increase in reality). The extra grand didn’t cause any undue financial hardships and we have no regrets about where our money went. I suppose that’s all you can hope for when it comes to a wedding budget, so in that respect I think we did quite well.


The Road Trip Wedding Recaps:

The Budget Bride | Debt & Savings Check-In

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

Remember this girl?

Bride climbing her way out of a rut

Yup, that’s still me, climbing her way out of the debt rut white saving for the wedding. It’s been just over a year since Todd and I decided to get married and the modest savings plan that went with it, all while I’m also trying to pay off my credit cards and other debts.

Let’s start with the debts:

Earlier this year I paid off my second store card and in August I’ll pay off a third. Store cards, I think, are one of the easier cards to pay off, regardless of balance, because the temptation to use them is easy to avoid: don’t go into the store! They also tend to have slightly higher interest rates, so it doesn’t hurt to get them out of the way. Heck, it just feels good to take another line off the payments list every month, you know?

But what I’m really excited about is that I also paid off my car this month! That’s the biggest shake-up my monthly budget has seen since my freelance writing contract wrapped up (only that was for the negative). Now that I’ll have the car payment funds to appropriate, it was time to take a look at the landscape and decide what to tackle next.

The dilemma is that I’ve got one store card left, only I really like using it. It’s my Kohls card and, if you’ve ever shopped their sales, you know how awesome it is to spend $100 while the receipt reflects $200 saved! It’s pretty much the only recreational spending I do, these days, and only every few months. And continuing to use the card increases the number of discounts I receive a year. I’m sure you see why I’m torn.

That said, I have 4 major credit cards (MC or Visa) that I’d really like to make a dent in, too. The smallest of them is not that much more, balance-wise, than my Kohls balance, and has only a slightly lower interest rate. And, while I’m fairly confident in our savings plan (as I’ll go into a bit more, below), I really like the idea of having a fall-back fund as the we approach wedding crunch-time, just in case something goes haywire at the last minute.

So I’ve decided to take a less convention approach, and pay down 2 cards at once, tag-team style. One month the Visa will get $200 and Kohls will get $50, the next month vice versa. No, I haven’t run the numbers to see what this approach will cost/save in interest and, yes, I realize I won’t be crossing them off as soon as I would if I focused on one at a time, but I feel better doing it this way, like I’ll see results faster, overall.

Plus, when I pulled my credit report and score a couple months ago, the main way I can increase my credit score (which was actually pretty good, I was happy to discover) is to widen that gap between my balances and my limits. While we’re not planning on buying a house right away, it is something we want to start thinking about post-wedding, and the better that score, the better our chances at a great interest rate!

Now onto the savings:

At first I wasn’t sure how well this was going to go. I mean, yeah, $100 a month seems like so little but also represented a big stretch for me. I’m happy to report that I’ve more-or-less stayed on track this past year.

A couple months had to be skipped due to life issues while others were only half-funded, but I made up for them with my tax refund this year and when I plugged everything into the spreadsheet I was happy to see that we’re right on track to meet our budget needs by the end of October, 2013. Sure, I’d love to be ahead of the game right now, but on-track is better than behind schedule and I’ve still got 444 days (just over 14 months) to make some headway.

There’s even a possibility that I can increase my monthly savings a bit, I just need to see how everything shakes out in August and September. And the biggest positive out of all of this is that I’m now used to saving each month. That’s something I’ve never been able to keep up with and I love having that cushion in the bank account (we’ve yet to combine the savings into a single account–I’m not even sure if we will, at this point), just knowing that after all the bills, groceries, gas, and rent are paid I’m not in single digits is a novel feeling for a girl who used to balance her online checkbook every other day to make sure I didn’t bounce anything!

I won’t be out of debt by the time we’re married (there’s still a few more accounts left to go after the two I’m tackling next, and their kinda biggies), but I’m looking at being in a lot better shape than I am now.

Pretty Book and Flower Icon


Any other budget brides want to brag on their saving prowess?
Let’s celebrate together!

Planning Through Advertsity

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning
Stormy sky with a flash of lightning cutting across it

image via stock.xchng | photography by hummel_12

While many people ascribe to the hills-and-valleys notion of life, I prefer to think of life as a swinging pendulum. Most of them time we’re swinging through the center with those outlying side-to-side swings taking their turn (though not always politely).

Around this time last year I don’t think anyone in my circle made it through spring without some sort of crisis. Family troubles, work troubles, money troubles, illness, car, computer and every other trouble under the sun. This year hasn’t been quite as rough, but there were some definite brier patches out there.

It’s bad enough on the usual day-to-day when the stress-level amps up, but add in wedding planning and that stress level easily goes to 11.

Let’s look at a few worst-case-scenarios and see what our options are.

Loss of a Job

One the one hand, if you were to lose your job mid-plan it might sound like a god-send in that you now have SO much more time for that list of DIY projects you’ve been meaning to get to. On the other hand, if you’re the one paying for the wedding and you’re counting on that steady income as part of your saving plan, your budget just took a major hit.

The first thing you do, of course, is to start looking for a new job and pronto! Maybe you can leverage your wedding passion into a job with a wedding pro and, in the process, make a connection that will benefit you down the road.

Might as well find that silver lining, right?

Illness (or worse) of a Loved One

In some cultures, mourning is serious business. The death of a family member can prohibit celebrations for a year after the event, which can mean postponing the wedding a year or more.

Whether for that reason or just to make sure your nearest and dearest are with you on your wedding day, some people push up their wedding plans the moment a parent or grandparent’s health starts to fail. And I can certainly understand it.  If, for whatever reason, that isn’t possible or plausible, it’s tough to keep planning a happy occasion in the face of potential tragedy, but even in the face of that, your marriage deserves a happy start, so keep planning as you can.

Situations like this are when you’re very lucky to have wedding insurance! Last time I checked you can purchase it at any point in the process, so if there’s a known situation that could mean postponing your wedding for a while, get the insurance at the first sign of trouble and you might be able to recoup the deposits, etc. for the vendors that aren’t able to accommodate the necessary changes. (It might sound mercenary, but it’ll be one less thing to worry about in the middle of everything else.)

It’s the End of Your World as You Know It

Sometimes, though, something happens that rocks your world to the core and you just wonder how you’re going to pull off this wedding.

Sometimes you don’t. At least not right now.

Last year I faced one of those make or break situations at work. It was beyond what I’d ever experienced before and after a particularly surprising and unsettling alteraction I spent the entire day trying to get a grip and failing miserably. The weekend was shot; I had to cancel some commitments because I just couldn’t face leaving the house. The next week was spent in a state of nervousness that is best described by the irregular heart beat I experienced every time I thought about the situation for too long.

And then all of my websites went down thanks to a hacker. Like I needed that?!

Like anyone needs that.

After a couple of numb weeks and a lot of hard discussions, things have leveled out (thank goodness). But it was close for a while, and I just couldn’t think about the wedding for a solid month or two. How can you when the world has gone completely pear-shaped? So I put everything on hold, left the stack of work where it was, knowing that it would be there when I came back to it.

As usual, the pendulum swung back to the middle and, thankfully, stayed there for quite some time. Eventually I found my groove again and thinking about the wedding became fun again instead of daunting. Like the song says ‘If you’re going through hell, keep on going’–sometimes that’s all you can do!

Have you faced any adversity during your planning process?
How did you handle it? 

Budget Bride Permission Slips

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning
Budget Bride Permission Slip Badge

image created by Miss Road Trip

Fact: weddings can be very expensive. And no matter how conscious we try to be of the budget we have to work with, it’s hard to escape the feeling of overwhelm as we flip through magazines with prices on every photo or browse vendors’ websites and check out their rate sheets (if they even have them).

So today I’m writing out a few “permission slips” for us budget brides that will hopefully remind us that it’s OK! to do what we have to do to create the celebration we want on our own terms and not those of the looming wedding industry.

And to start, we’re going to talk dresses.

it’s OK! to…

Watch wedding shows like Say Yes to the Dress
and shake your head in amazement at women dropping
your entire wedding budget on their dress.

Seriously, it always floors me that some folks are spending my budget or more on a dress.

And it’s okay to have that moment of ‘whoa’ but to keep everything in perspective.

What’s not okay is to get all bitter and hate-faced. After all, a wedding is a celebration and we want to keep everything as positive as possible so there are predominantly happy memories of this time of transition.

So we, as budget brides, savvy of our bottom line, will try on dresses to find out what we want well ahead of time and then scout out sites like Once Wed, Dress Rush, or Rue La La‘s Bridal Boutique for just the right dress. Or we plan a road trip with our favorite girls to a dress outlet like Bridal Outlet of Atlanta and look for a deal. Or we’ll make it ourselves (or find a dressmaker).

Whatever we do, we’re not going to let our budget get us down!


Next, let’s tackle photography fees. Ready?

it’s OK to…

Cringe at the sight of the word “investment” on a wedding photographer’s website or brochure.

Buzz-words may be the death of me, I mean it.

Look, I get it, the price tag on wedding photography is steep for a reason. As a way to reframe the customer’s perceptions, looking at your wedding photos as a long-term benefit can help sooth the blow of that bottom line.

Maybe it’s a leftover from growing up with the mantra “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.” Anyone else familiar with that line?

But most of us are just trying to get a feel for if the photographer is even in our ballpark and might already be frustrated by having to hunt through half a dozen sites that don’t even list starting fees or package prices for comparison, so seeing the buzzword of “investment” just raises a red flag. And then, if the “investment” link leads to an explanation of how much effort goes into capturing this “once in a lifetime” *ahem* moment for all posterity but still fails to list a price range? *deep breath*

If you’re trying to make a sale, don’t hide the price. Don’t make it more difficult for me to hire you.

And I think it’s totally okay to not be as all about the photos and to just enjoy the experience of the day. If you’re not the type to look at photo albums and you’re not planning on having children to pass these keepsakes down to, do what’s important to you and don’t let the rest of the wedding industry tell you that you what you HAVE to have.


Okay, the last two were a bit vent-ish, this one is actually a fun permission slip:

it’s OK! to…

Splurge on the one thing that really is the most important to the day. Provided you…

  • Keep the splurge to 1 thing, not everything–that last bits a one-way ticket to an exploded budget.
  • Realize that a splurge in 1 category means cutting back in another one.
  • And keeping in mind the comfort of your guests.

Going back to the previous permission slips: if the dress is going to make the wedding for you, find a way to get the one you want by any reasonable means possible. If photography IS your number 1 priority, maybe you’ll find room in your budget to pay the travel expenses of the photog you just have to have.

For us? Our splurge is almost always on the food.

When we throw a party at home, I tend to go overboard on the food every. single. time. Partially because I truly believe it’s poor form to run out of anything at a party and partially because I want my guests to never leave my home hungry.

And the more I remind myself that the wedding is really just a party to celebrate the next step in our relationship, a party with a bigger budget than I’ve every thrown before, suddenly our $5K budget seems like a boom, not a bust.

What are you wanting a “permission slip” for?


Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

image via stock.xchng | photography by nosheep

Once we’d decided how we were going to pay for the wedding, we both assumed that it was best to just set up a joint savings account at the bank we already used, that way we could easily transfer funds into and out of it as needed.

Then it occurred to me that, just maybe, it might be better to set up a joint checking account instead of a savings account. After all, while we were giving ourselves a certain amount of lead-time, eventually we’re going to be needing to take funds out on a regular basis to cover deposits and other purchases. Some savings accounts might allow a few withdrawals a month with no penalty, but towards the end that might be a problem.

A checking account it is, right? Until I actually looked it up and learned our bank charges a nominal fee for accounts not hooked to a minimum direct deposit or a $1500 balance. Um, yeah, not so good for starting out our wedding fund.

So the search was on–does anyone offer fee-free checking anymore? Not at the big banks, it turns out. But if you start looking local (and don’t forget about any credit unions you might be able to join) you can usually find a couple of options out there.

The thing is, you have to weigh the costs over the convenience. Our bank only charged $5 a month for balances under $1500–not extravagant, by any means, but a charge nonetheless. Putting away a couple hundred dollars a month means the fee would only be applied for the first few months, but when you’re on a tight budget, even a little bite could be uncomfortable.

Still, is $5 a month worth the time it would take to set up an account at an unfamiliar bank and drive over our deposits on the odd lunch break? If we went with another bank, it would need to be one with convenient ATM machines or–better yet–Saturday hours for when we needed cash for certain expenses. Not to mention the hassle of closing a new account.

But we’re online folks–the more we can do from our laptops the better. What kind of options are there? Well, first we considered a PayPal account. About the only thing you can’t do is write checks directly from the account, which may or may not be important to your vendors, but it does allow ease of deposits and transfers and a MasterCard Debit Card for most other purchases.

Another option was ING Direct–they offer both online savings and checking accounts, you can link up to 3 personal checking accounts to your online checking for ease of transfers, an ATM network with no fees and the ability to write checks against your account. Sounds like a definite contender to me!

Whatever route you decide to take, it’s helpful to have one place set aside to keep track of wedding expenses and available budget. Whether a piggy bank, a savings account or one credit card you use and then pay off each month.

Where are you stocking your wedding day funds?
Any options I haven’t listed here that maybe I should have?